And so it continues… We woke up at 4am nervous, but excited. Ate our PB&J, got dressed, and drove to the station to catch the 5:47am train into downtown Chicago.
Once we got downtown, we followed the masses to the marathon start site and found our respective start corrals. Since Casey is fast, he qualified for start corral B, while Lindsey and I were starting in the back with the rest of Chicago. There were so many people there, we never even heard the gun go off – all of the sudden we were just moving. The marathon started at 8am, and it was already 65 degrees out and starting to get sunny. Linds and I found the 4:15 pace group (hilarious, looking back on it…) and started our marathon adventure!
There was an old man named Julian holding the pace sign for 4:15, and I decided that in order to hold that pace, I’d rather be in front of him with room to fade, than behind him and need to catch up. In mile 2, I got about one minute ahead of the 4:15 group and looked to my side – no Lindsey. I don’t know if it was the pace or the crowd, but we lost each other in mile 2 and never found each other again during the race.
By mile 3, I could tell it was going to be a rough day. It was just so hot and the air was so heavy. But my legs and lungs still felt good, and I continued to run at a great pace. By the time I hit the water stop at mile 5, I was hot enough that I started pouring water over my head. I even took off my bondi band and soaked it in a cup of ice water, hoping that would help cool me down. By mile ten I knew I would never be able to hold my pace in the heat, but I kept on running, not wanting to give up. I hit the halfway point – 13.1 miles – in 2 hours 5 minutes, about 2 minutes ahead of my 4:15 pace, and a personal best! Unfortunately, I was also completely wrecked.
By the time I got to the mile 15 marker, I felt like I had already run 26. My legs were completely cramped up, my entire body felt swollen from the heat, and I had lost my will to run. I had promised myself I wouldn’t walk in this marathon. Once you start walking, it is soooo hard to start running again. I knew that if I walked as early as mile 15, the race was over. But my body won the fight against my brain, and I slowed to a walk.
It was such a surreal experience. For one, I was so lonely. I had no one to talk to, no one to reassure me that I didn’t suck, and that the weather was dangerous. I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only one feeling this way, and as I looked around I could see that nearly half the runners were walking, and people were really struggling. I continued to alternate walking and running, and stopped to drench myself in water at every opportunity.
The mile markers felt like they would never come. By the time I got to mile 20, not one person around me was running. 45,000 people running a marathon, and not a runner in sight. When we got to the water stop, the flags indicated that the weather alert had been changed to Code Red, and a loudspeaker was urging runners to slow down and walk, as conditions had become dangerous. At each medic tent, I could see runners laying in the grass, some with IVs. You could hear lots of sirens, and see people really struggling.
Miles 20-24 are honestly a blur to me. I stopped several times to stretch out my calves, pour water over my head, and a few times I actually stopped and sat down to put my head between my knees. Each time I started up again, I felt more dizzy and delirious. At mile 24 I was still not convinced I would ever reach the finish line. More than anything, I was just so sad. I kept beating myself up that I was walking so much, and doing so poorly. I started to cry when I saw the 4:30 pacer pass me, knowing I would never catch back up to him.
God love the people of Chicago. Despite how horrible the run was, the spectators did everything they could to help the runners keep going. People went into their houses and brought out bowls of ice. Many people turned on hoses and sprinklers and soaked us as we ran past. There were marshmallows, pretzels, oranges – anything you needed to keep yourself going. Thank you Chicago, for keeping my spirit alive.
When I saw the mile marker for 25, I decided I was going run the rest of the way. Run one mile – should have been a cake walk. Not one person around me was running. It was a very sloooow jog, but I did run that last 1.2 miles, probably the hardest mile of my life. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours, 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Embarrassing. Once I crossed, I got my medal and a bottle of water and collapsed on a curb next to a nice old man who tried to reassure me as I began to lose it.
Once I had cooled down, I headed to the runner reunite area and found Casey. As soon as I saw him I burst into tears. I was so embarrassed that it had taken me so long. But he was great, and immediately reassured me that he was proud of me, and it was waaaaay too hot to be running a marathon. He had slowed down too, and finished almost 30 minutes behind his goal time (but still in a 3:40, and in the top 10% of all finishers!).
We headed back towards the finish line area to wait for Lindsey, and I continued to feel sick and horrible. I ended up throwing up in a trash can in front of a LOT of people. I will spare details, but it was not pleasant. Clearly I had drank a LOT of fluids during the race. We eventually found Lindsey and, since we had missed our train, headed to Jimmy John’s for lunch. As soon as we got there I headed straight to the bathroom for puke #2. Horrible. Spent the next few hours hunched over with my hea
d down, trying not to throw up anymore.
We didn’t leave Chicago until 7pm, getting us to Cincinnati a little after 1am, and I had to be at work at 8am Monday morning. Somehow I made it through the work day, and did nothing but sleep and eat Monday and Tuesday nights. I am starting to finally feel normal again.
Casey is already thinking about what’s next. He wants to run the Jacksonville Bank Marathon on December 21st in Florida. I’m not sure if I’m ready to jump back in quite so quickly. Physically, I’m sure I can do it, but mentally, I don’t know if I can take another bad marathon. More than anything I was so sad and disappointed that I had trained for four months, and had my race fall apart in the heat. It was so emotionally draining to drag myself through those last ten miles. I’m almost afraid to put myself back out there – what if I fail again? I told my mom that I felt like a failure, and she reminded me that no matter my finishing time, I had helped raise a lot of money for an important cause. So true, mom – thank you for giving me some perspective:)
Overall, the weekend itself was a great experience. The people of Chicago were awesome, and on a cooler day, I really wonder if I could have had a great race. Running in Chicago really made me appreciate how nice it was to run at home, with my friends and family cheering me on during the Flying Pig. I am very tempted to run the Pig again in the spring, even though it will be 6 days before my wedding…